Spoiler! The highlight of my Las Vegas trip was an hour in a bookstore.
A couple of weeks ago I was in Las Vegas, walking out of my first UFC live event (as a spectator, not a fighter, of course). As we shuffled along, shoulder to shoulder, a voice started yapping, behind me and to the left.
“There’s no way that round was scored right! There’s no f-in…” etc. “I just lost thousands of dollars! I just want to do so much cocaine! I want to fight someone!”
Okay, now keep in mind that this is being bellowed almost in my ear. I turned to see who this aggrieved person was. It was some chubby kid with a big mole and a grey sweatsuit, maddened with rage. After listening to him for the next two minutes I felt like I regressed to a third grade reading level. I hope he found his cocaine and calmed down.
En route to our hotel an hour later, we walked by a 7-11. A small man with a twitchy woman in tow walked up and said, “Hey man, I got cocaine, weed, and ecstasy.” And he said it in the deepest voice, like Darth Vader deep. I started laughing, it was just so brazen. And it’s not like it was in an alley, it was just out in the open in front of a place where people were buying Big Gulps.
This is why Bauman Rare Books was such an oasis in the midst of all the stupid. My friend and I, another book nerd, had a great time wandering the casinos and watching the fights, but we each heaved a big sigh of relief when we saw a book store in the middle of The Palazzo.
And what a book store! Documents signed by Mark Twain, Benjamin Franklin, 80k price tags, lots of pages behind glass, etc. People would walk in and their voices would instantly hush.
The owner showed us a Dali-Illustrated and -signed version of Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland that just about stopped my heart, those unbound pages were so beautiful.
Then, a couple of days ago I went to a book collecting salon at Weller Book Works, here in Salt Lake. After and before a wonderful talk by Catherine Weller, I just stumbled around the rare book room with my mouth open, looking at the books signed by Joyce, Faulkner, and so on. And talking with other people doing the same thing. It was a blast. A blast, I tell you. The perfect Friday night.
Then started reading A Gentle Madness again. And it sort of made me wish I was an eccentric book collector with a fortune to burn. Alas.
I have lots of books, and even a few signed ones (I have a signed Sandra Cisneros book that says, in Spanish ‘My handsome white boy, now and forever, I only write for you’).” But nothing rare, and I don’t know if I’d ever be able to shell out much money for rarities, even if I had the money.
How about you? Any serious collectors here? Serious or not, what are your prized literary possessions?